Boris Johnson has used his first speech as prime minister to promise to deliver Brexit with or without a deal, “no ifs no buts”, by October 31.
The PM said he was “convinced” he could resolve the Irish border issue holding up Britain’s departure from the EU in the next 99 days.
But even if he cannot negotiate a new agreement with Brussels, he will take the UK out of the EU on Halloween with no deal, he told the nation from Downing Street.
Setting himself on collision course with both the EU, which is refusing to renegotiate Theresa May’s deal, and MPs who are determined to stop no deal, Johnson said: “The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts because we are going to restore trust in our democracy.
“And we are going to fulfil the repeated promises of parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October 31 no ifs or buts.
“And we will do a new deal, a better deal that will maximise the opportunities of Brexit while allowing us to develop a new and exciting partnership with the rest of Europe based on free trade and mutual support.
“I have every confidence that in 99 days time we will have cracked it.
“But you know what we aren’t going to wait 99 days because the British people have had enough of waiting.
“The time has come to act, to take decisions to give strong leadership and to change this country for the better.”
Johnson’s speech was in marked contrast to his predecessor May, who used her first address to the nation outside Number 10 to outline a broad vision of tackling the “burning injustices” blighting Britain.
The new PM instead focused on his pledge to deliver Brexit and announced a number of policies, including a guarantee of the rights of EU citizens in Britain.
Work will also begin on 20 new hospital upgrades as part of Johnson’s drive to ensure the £20bn extra a year pledged by May for the NHS reaches the front line.
He also promised to fix the social care crisis “once and for all” with a plan to give older people dignity and security.
And he repeated campaign pledges to recruit 20,000 extra police officers “to make your streets safer”, and to “level up” funding for primary and secondary school pupils to ensure they get a “superb education wherever they are”.
“I will take personal responsibility for the change I want to see,” he said.
“Never mind the backstop, the buck stops here.”
In an attempt to address concerns that his approach to Brexit and unpopularity in Scotland could lead to the break-up of the UK, Johnson also insisted he would be a PM for the whole country.
“It is time we unleashed the productive power, not just of London and the South East, but of every corner of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“The awesome foursome that are incarnated in that red, white and blue flag.”
But it was the passages on Brexit that will be picked over closely by supporters, opponents and the EU, which is gearing up for fresh negotiations.
Johnson said he was “convinced” that he could strike a new Brexit deal that would scrap the Irish backstop hated by many Tories, while ensuring there are no checks at the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland – a stance likely to rejected off-hand by Ireland and the EU.
“It is of course vital at the same time that we prepare for the remote possibility that Brussels refuses any further to negotiate and we are forced to come out with no deal,” Johnson said.
“Not because we want that outcome, of course not, but because it is only common sense to prepare.”
In a passage apparently aimed at critics concerned about the huge economic impact of a no-deal Brexit, Johnson conceded to those who “prophesy disaster” that Britain can overcome the inevitable challenges.
“To all those who continue to prophesy disaster I say, ‘Yes there will be difficulties,’ though I believe with energy and application they will be far less serious than some have claimed.
“But if there is one thing that has really sapped the confidence of business over the past three years it’s not the decisions we have taken, it’s our refusal to take decisions.
“To those who say we cannot be ready I say do not underestimate this country.”
As Johnson began work on his cabinet reshuffle, Tory MPs greeted the speech with an outpouring of praise.
But pro-EU former cabinet minister Justine Greening warned Johnson that MPs would block a no-deal Brexit.
The Tory MP told HuffPost UK: “Boris must not repeat the mistakes of Theresa May and ignore parliamentary maths. Especially on no deal.
“It’s inconceivable any UK government could or would override parliament’s will on something so important as Brexit.”
Former minister Hugo Swire, one of the party’s older hands, said: “Parliament breaks for the summer recess tomorrow.
“Time for some of my more self-indulgent and excitable colleagues to wrap wet towels around their head, slap on the sunscreen, and sit on the beach.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, called Johnson’s speech “empty bluster” and repeated his call for a general election.
“The prime minister has no plan for Brexit and is staking everything on a sweetheart trade deal with Donald Trump which would risk the takeover of our NHS by US corporations,” he said.
Naomi Smith, chief executive of the Best for Britain anti-Brexit campaign, said: “Boris Johnson will be the shortest-serving prime minister in this country’s history. He relishes being divisive, which means he’ll never be able to unite this country.
“He and his Brexiter chums finally have the keys to Downing Street that they craved. But they’ll find the challenge ahead of them isn’t as easy as they thought. He can try his best to force a no-deal Brexit down the country’s throat, but we will fight harder to prevent it.
“If Johnson thinks he can survive on just Brexiter support, he’s in for a real surprise. He reports to the people of this country, not Nigel Farage.”